Construction completed on Gabon stadiums

Gabon, which co-hosts the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations with Equatorial Guinea, has completed building its stadiums in Libreville and Franceville in time for the tournament from January 21 to February 12.

Louis Claude Moundzieoud Koumba, chief spokesman for the organising committee COCAN Gabon, said on Friday the 40,000-seat stadium in Libreville (pictured) and the 25,000-seat ground in Franceville were now finished.

"We can assure you that everything is ready to host the tournament," Koumba said through a translator. "It was a challenge but it was a priority for the country and now they are waiting for the fans."

"[Gabon] President [Ali Bongo] visited the infrastructure sites at least once a week to make sure everything was completed."

The infrastructure problems facing the organisers were highlighted last month during Gabon's friendly match against Brazil when the game was delayed by almost 20 minutes after the lights went off twice at the new Sino-Gabonese Friendship Stadium in Libreville.

The condition of the pitch was also heavily criticised after a tropical downpour made the surface virtually unplayable.

However, Koumba said the Brazil game had been merely a test even and the problems had been rectified.

"Everything on the field has been resolved and the drainage system has been modified," he said. "I can assure you everything is in excellent performing condition."

Koumba said the two host countries expected around 60,000 visitors during the tournament.

LOCAL HELP

"There are 4,500 beds in Libreville and 2,000 in Franceville, but that doesn't include hotels that were constructed especially for personnel and athletes," he said.

Koumba said local people would also help to fill a shortfall in accommodation and help foreigners in need of a bed.

"Gabon has a tradition of hospitality and peace and welcomes fans. The African people have a tradition of inviting and hosting people in their homes," he said.

Reuters journalists have reported difficulties booking hotel rooms or apartments.

Another irritant for travelling fans has been the availability of visas. Koumba said special 45-day visas would be available from Monday for Africa Cup of Nations visitors from Gabonese and Equatorial Guinea embassies.

"If the supporters are unable to get to an embassy, they can access the visa at the airport in Gabon," Koumba said.

The ministry of interior, Koumba said, rounded up all the airline companies flying to Gabon and instructed them to allow passengers to fly to Gabon without a visa, though the fans will have to present the right documents on arrival to be granted entry.

Koumba said the tournament would showcase Gabon to the outside world.

"The Cup of African Nations usually runs at 40 percent capacity and we will surpass that. We have a lot of expatriates and a large international community and we know that they will be requesting tickets and we believe that the stadiums will be full," he said.

Gabon will host 16 games and tickets for the home team's matches have already sold out. Koumba said tickets were still available for other fixtures.


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